Lauren Becker lives in Oakland, California, where she runs a quarterly reading series called “East Bay on the Brain.” She is a freelance writer and editor, health policy consultant, non-practicing attorney and former director of healthcare government relations for a number of non-profit organizations. Lauren’s fiction has been published in Pedestal Magazine, Annalemma, Opium Magazine, Pindeldyboz, Storyglossia and elsewhere. She also writes for The Nervous Breakdown and keeps a blog here.

BG: So many quality indie presses, reading series, and literary journals. What is corium bringing to the table? What words of wisdom can it offer to the literary conversation?

LB: I don’t really know how to answer. I guess I started Corium to feature words that move people. It was never my goal to generate and motivate discussion, or to critique or theorize. Corium isn’t wise in that regard; I don’t know how to do those things. I know what I like, which is very visceral, and I think the work we feature is unique and beautiful in that regard. As for literary conversation, I think Corium serves as listener. Every conversation needs that. We look for what’s beneath or behind the conversation, the feelings driving it. What it leaves behind when it’s gone.

BG: When the world ends in 2012, as the mayans predicted, and the next species takes over the earth and digs up America 1,000 years from now, what literary journals / indie press publications will they be restoring, reviving, and immortalizing, and why?

LB: They'll probably be speaking a different language; I think they might restore, etc., the ones with the prettiest pictures.

Again, I don’t know how to answer. To me, writing is so much about relatability, about seeking commonality in some way. I’m not trying to evade the question, I just can’t say what will resonate with the passage of time, even brief.

BG: What is the last book you borrowed and never returned? Who'd you steal it from and why didn't you give it back?

LB: I no longer borrow books or loan them. They are cursed practices. For some reason, those friendships or acquaintanceships end or ebb, and I really do feel like I stole. The last book I borrowed and didn’t return was Norwegian Wood, by Haruki Murakami. I borrowed it from a girl I didn’t know well. She moved and we lost touch. I still haven’t read it. I feel guilty. When someone tries to loan me a book, I tell them to give it to me or I’ll buy it or check it out from the library. I do the same. If I can’t part with it, they get a recommendation.

BG: Name the five best books you've read that you'd bet your ass nobody else has?

LB: I swear I’m not trying to be contrary, but I can’t answer this question, either. Partly because I have no idea what other people have read, and partly because it implies that I have some kind of superior knowledge. So, no ass-betting. If I read a book I think is great, I want people to know about it. Best I can do is to give some recommendations of books I don’t think have been widely read, though I could be wrong: The Book of Proper Names (Amelie Nothomb), the only good thing anyone has ever done (Sandra Newman), Vernon God Little (DBC Pierre), Wrong Information Is Being Given Out at Princeton (J.P Donleavy), and anything by Ellen Gilchrist (especially Victory Over Japan) who everyone has heard of, but it seems like nobody I know has read. These aren’t necessarily the five best books I’ve ever read (except for the Gilchrist, probably), but they’re not beaten path books and I think people might like them.

BG: Who is your favorite historical figure, past or present, and how have they influenced your literary journey?

LB: Good writing is brave, I think. Where the writer sets aside ego and channels experience, including the bad stuff – loss, pain, fear – into creation or progress. There are so many writers who do this; it’s hard to think of just one. Dorothy Allison comes to mind. Bastard out of Carolina is so stark and brutal, vulnerable and honest, and it’s no secret that the book is largely autobiographical. In an interview with Salon, she said something that resonated with me, challenged me. “Some days, when I feel really tired, I kind of believe in God because it would be easier. I don't believe in fate, except some days. And I don't believe that fighting really hard and sacrificing necessarily makes a difference, but sometimes it does.” She chooses the challenge over the easy, but is honest about the temptation. One of my favorite things I’ve written is a piece for The Nervous Breakdown, called The Things We Would Not Be, which deals with how writers (especially me) use fiction and/or humor sometimes to edit or make sense of those scary or horrific or embarrassing things that helped form us. It actually scared the hell out of me to post it. I liked that fear.

BG: BONUS QUESTION: Give us a six song playlist that tells the story of your life.

In no particular order:

Swan Dive (Ani DiFranco)
California Stars (Wilco)
Court and Spark (Joni Mitchell)
Talk About the Passion (R.E.M.)
Polyester Bride (Liz Phair)
Revelator (Gillian Welch)


  1. Borrowed a book and didn't read it or return it? The librarian in me is judging you, Lauren! LOL

  2. Yeah what is up with nobody ever having read Ellen Gilchrist? I LOVED her in junior high, and I don't mean that in a condescending way.

  3. what's a good book of gilchrist to read?

    i'll buy it this weekend.

  4. I loved your piece in TNB, too -- and I imagine that most literary writers can see themselves in your words. I, too, was definitely the one who could read words but not say them -- and to this day, I'm still amazed/impressed that so many kindred spirits are able to do readings at writerly events, as that would still be terrifying for me. Kudos to you for overcoming that, Lauren . .. and kudos to you for writing that fabulous piece. I just re-read it now and enjoyed it just as much. I don't know anyone who's lived -- *really* lived -- and doesn't have those "scars, knotted and raised." I consider mine badges of honor and wear them with pride. I was watching Craig Ferguson tonight, and his guest said something about being weird, and CF said that it's the people who *aren't* weird (or claim they aren't weird) who worry him (i.e., they're the *real* weirdos! *wink*). I mean, come on - everyone's weird, which is one of the many wonderful things that makes us humans so interesting, especially when we embrace that weirdness, thereby giving others permission to embrace their own as well. And I agree with "who wants to be the person they were in h.s.?" . . . on the other hand, I think many writers and other artists identify more with who they were as young children (before we lost our true selves in order to conform during adolescence). Children are awesome: playful, lacking self-consciousness, still able to believe in idealism, etc., etc., and I most often find those qualities in my writer/artist friends -- an awesome group full of grown-up children who are at our best when we can feel and love and play and laugh and cry with the same intensity and purity that we once did when we were three feet tall! Cheers to the "worst things" in life that have made us all better human beings and empathic, intuitive artists . . .
    Lovely piece, Lauren, and a great interview, too! xo

  5. Right, Elisa? How have people not read her?

    Jereme: Start with Victory Over Japan. Let me know what you think.

    Thanks so much Laura. (The TNB piece is here: http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/lbecker/2010/01/the-things-we-would-not-be/. I don't think it's linked in the interview.) Embarrassing, but the truth, undisguised. Stuff like this interview embarrasses me more.